Modified 326bhp BMW 635CSi E24 Peter Auto championship-winning car

Modified 326bhp BMW 635CSi E24 Peter Auto championship-winning car

From a bare shell, Vink Motorsport turned a modified and abused E24 635CSi into this Peter Auto championship-winning car – all in less than a year. Words & Photography: Robb Pritchard, Vink Motorsport.

Vink of an eye

The E24 635CSi “Sharknose”, a venerable and sought-after classic today, was once the flagship of BMW’s worldwide motorsport presence. It didn’t bring in as much silverware as the subsequent E30 M3, the most successful touring car the world has ever seen, but the E24 was no on-track slouch, taking three outright European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) titles in the early ‘80s, as well as three of the Munich marque’s 21 Spa 24-Hours wins, and two of its epic 19 Nürburgring 24-Hours victories.

Modified 326bhp BMW 635CSi E24 Peter Auto championship-winning car

The mid-’80s are arguably more remembered for the insane Group B rally cars and the Group C prototype sportscar racers, but although outwardly the Group A cars resembled what you saw on the road, under the skin a serious amount of performance upgrades were allowed. The main rule was the stipulation that 5000 units had to be made, the road car version had to have a back seat, and the wheels were under the wings… But apart from those general restrictions Group A touring cars were out and out competition cars. “It’s easier to say what of the original car is left rather than what is changed,” Ton Vink of Dutch firm Vink Motorsport explains. “The glass, the dashboard. Erm… steering column, prop shaft, the steel wings and door skins and a few other little things.”

Modified 326bhp BMW 635CSi E24 Peter Auto championship-winning car

This particular car seems to have had a rather chequered history. How anyone could paint an E24 bright pink, with a brush, is anyone’s guess. But on the other hand, it was also fitted the very desirable M88 engine from an M635, which would have improved its road performance considerably. For the strict Heritage Touring Cup regulations, a Group A homologated 3.5-litre straight-six was needed. In standard road-going specification the M30 engine produced just over 200hp, not bad for a nearly 40-year old sedan. But with a ported head, forged pistons, remodelled camshaft, strengthened conrods and valve springs, it is now producing 320hp. This would be a serious undertaking for an amateur mechanic, and needing this work done to the absolute highest standard, Vink outsourced all the engine work to another local company – Bosch Tuning.

Not many road car components could hope to survive the rigours of being bashed around circuits by the best tin-top racers in the world, and so the transmission, brakes and suspension would be upgraded. This recreation has the same type of Getrag 5-speed dogleg gearbox as the works cars, sending drive to a 210mm ZF LSD rear diff.

Modified 326bhp BMW 635CSi E24 Peter Auto championship-winning car

Vink has re-manufactured many parts from the original BMW Motorsport items. “We were lucky to find an original suspension set for the car, and we made our own jigs, so now we can produce everything we want for future 635 builds,” Ton says. Damping is provided by a set of Koni shock absorbers, the much bigger brakes are from AP Racing. An electronic control system is by DTA Motor Management, while the loom is a lightweight racing version with a lot less wiring for surplus things such as central locking and the radio. The rollcage was fabricated by a local company called Multitech to strict FIA Historic racing safety rules, while the driver sits safe in a carbon Recaro seat.

Modified 326bhp BMW 635CSi E24 Peter Auto championship-winning car

Most car builds include stories of parts that were difficult to source and frustrations with complicated installations, but Vink Motorsport’s slick operation, with many years of experience, mean nothing on this car caused the outfit any real headaches.

Before being painted the car was built up with every component given stringent tests to make sure it was mounted correctly and performed as it should. It was then stripped down (with all traces of pink gone!), and the bare shell was ready for paint.

In stunning black and gold, evoking Jim Richard’s Australian Touring Car championship JPS car of 1985, Ton thinks it looks amazing. “At the races I would say that at least 95% of the cars are white with the three blue and red BMW Motorsport stripes, so in black it really stands out.”

Close up the car is even more spectacular, every aluminium part is gold anodised – even those bits you’ll only see if you’re lying on the floor: “Such attention to detail makes the scrutineers smile, and the BMW fans happy.”

The lucky owner, Jan Schouten, Ton’s long-time friend and former racing team mate, entered the (Covid-truncated) 2020 Peter Auto Heritage Touring Cup, a very well represented series where pre-1985 Volvo 240Ts, Rover Vitesses, Ford Mustangs fight it out at some of Europe’s most hallowed race tracks. At the first event, at France’s Paul Ricard circuit, Jan demonstrated the potential of the car by getting to the front of his class in a few laps. “I knew it would perform straight away as Ton makes amazing cars, for the Peter Auto series you can only have a very good car as you’re racing against Europe’s best. But honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to be this good! “It’s just so easy to handle and drives like a dream. Ton and I are competitive in everything we do and we love to win, but winning in a car you’ve built yourself, and against such good teams, is a very, very special feeling!” But that didn’t last until the end of the race as a small crack in a brake calliper pipe brought a premature end to their day.

The next event was at Monza, one of Italy’s most historic race tracks, and one where Jan could stretch the BMW’s legs on the straights… but their high hopes seemed to be dashed when a propshaft UJ failed in qualifying. “The part itself was a 10 Euro joint, as the shaft has to be a standard part.” Ton explains, “But the damage it did while flailing around under the car was terrible.” Things like the gear linkage were easy enough to repair, but the gearbox output shaft was beyond repair… and with no spare it looked as though their race was over before it had even begun.

Modified 326bhp BMW 635CSi E24 Peter Auto championship-winning car

Ton had a contact a few hundred kilometres away, and although they’d not done business before, he decided it was a good time to start. “The guy started building the new gearbox while we were driving there, we had a pizza with him, drove back to the circuit and installed it.”

A couple of runs on a service road later to check the clutch and it went to the grid. After the green light, Jan didn’t have much trouble getting to the front of the class, but then the car started to smoke. “I was watching it from the pit wall and trying to think what it could be,” Ton says. “But I was 100% sure that every nut was tight. Oil on the exhaust is something that can go very wrong, very quickly so I had my finger on the radio button ready to call him in.” Fortunately, it was just a seal settling itself in with the heat and pressure and Jan went on to take the car’s first category win.

“A well built car, a good engine and a good driver – a winning combination!” Ton smiled. The last round of the shortened series was at the far end of the continent, at Portugal’s Estoril. They weren’t thinking about any championship glory… until they realised that many of their closest competitors hadn’t undertaken the long trip. Jan was still there to have some fun and the car was so good he was mixing it with the big Capris and CSLs in the class above… He was even fighting for third overall until he spun after tangling with a Ford, Fourth overall, and his second class win, was enough to take the 2020 Group A Heritage Touring Cup championship.

The Group A class cars share the track with a field of a lot older but more powerful Group 2 cars, such as the BMW CSLs and 3-litre Ford Capris, as much fun as it was winning the class in the E24, Jan kept seeing these spectacular cars lapping him and it sowed a seed. Now a stunning new Group 2 CSL is in the works. Another no expense spared Vink build, this 24- valve monster is being prepared for one sole purpose – winning the overall championship in 2022. Don’t worry, we’re already booked it for a photoshoot and test drive…

E24 635CSi

  • ENGINE: M30B35, Complete tuned bij Bosch Tuning to Gr.A specifications, 326bhp, stainless steel side pipe, 110-litre endurance fuel tank with quick fillers, lightweight race wiring loom, 210mm diff with cooling
  • CHASSIS: Total race ready weight: 1180kg, 17-inch BBS centre lock wheels on Michelin slicks, Koni shock absorbers, full Gr.A-spec suspension with rose joints, Gearbox Getrag 265 Gr.A, Lockheed brakes airjacks
  • INTERIOR: Standard dashboard and door cards flocked in black, combi cluster replaced for dash with analog VDO meters and rev counter, Recaro Profi carbon seat, Schroth harnesses

Championship is run to strict Group A specifications. M30B35 is the party piece under the bonnet. Here: Standard dashboard and door cards have been flocked. Left: VDO gauges sit in original binnacle.

Who are Vink Motorsport?

Ton Vink is an utterly dedicated BMW fan. Before deciding to turn his attention to preparing motorsport-ready BMWs for a living, he ran a successful Dutch karting team – so he already knew the racing industry inside and out.

Ton’s passion for BMWs started in the 1980s watching the WTCC and DTM, around the turn of the Millennium he started building his own E30 M3. The process involved buying as many original Group A parts as he could, studying every photo he could find, reading all of the books and watching all of the videos around… When Ton took his car to its first race it was a dream come true, especially as he was up to third and about to take home some silverware at his first race behind the wheel. But then he span…

“The whole field managed to miss me,” he sighs. “But then the last guy just drove right into me at racing speed.” The car was heavily damaged and not having the heart to go through the whole rebuilding process again, it was repaired and sold it.

As a sideline to the karting business, Ton worked on friend’s cars, preparing one or two per year. In 2014 he built an accurate rally M3 and got the creative bug back – he has never looked back. Ton now gets his kicks managing and preparing race cars…

“Winning in a car you’ve built yourself, and against such good teams, is a very special feeling!”
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